Longtime WWOZ show host "Jelly Roll Justice" David Averbuck passed on Sunday, December 15, 2019, at his home in California, after a long illness. He was 76.
David and his wife, Patti, came to their first Jazz Fest in 1990, and instantly fell in love with New Orleans. They moved here part-time in 2001, splitting their time between New Orleans and California. They both began to volunteer in the office at WWOZ that same year, and David went on the air as "Jelly Roll Justice" in early 2005. He was on the air at 'OZ through 2016, most recently as the host of the Thursday 4-7pm contemporary jazz show.
In 2005, when many WWOZ show hosts were unable to return to the New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, David recorded hundreds of programs at his home in California, and these shows were used to fill in empty spots on WWOZ's schedule. He continued recording programs remotely for WWOZ for many years while he was not in town, and his deep bass voice was one of the most familiar on the station.
His love for the music was palpable every time he got on the microphone. "From Leadbelly to Snooks Eaglin, from Louis Armstrong to Terence Blanchard, the rhythms of Louisiana music have infused every aspect of what is our country, our society, our soul. While I love playing the old masters, I am amazed by the next generation of musical geniuses from New Orleans," he said.
For many years, David and Patti also organized and ran the volunteer operations at the WWOZ Hospitality Tent at Jazz Fest. He could often be found at the main entrance of the tent, greeting Brass Passers and other guests.
Before coming to WWOZ, David was a civil liberties attorney and educator on labor law, disability law, ethics, and philosophy. He was legal counsel during the early stages of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, and also represented such diverse clients as the High Chief of the Republic of Palau and the National Football League Players’ Association.
A former law school dean at the University of California, Berkeley, he went on to teach social workers and public health professionals at Cal for 17 years. During that time, he taught for a year at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and received two Senior Fulbright Lectureships that took him to India and Sri Lanka for a year each. He lectured in philosophy for ten years at Sonoma State University, as well as making presentations nationally before retiring.
Jelly Roll will be greatly missed. The WWOZ community sends our best wishes and love to his family and friends.